Work of the week - Elgar cello concerto

By Konzerthaus Berlin June 25, 2024


Edwar Elgar described the mood of his cello concerto as an "attitude to life". When he wrote it in 1919, his mood was melancholy to gloomy. It was characterized by an intense longing for the pre-war Edwardian era, which was perceived as happy, the  impressions of the slaughter of first world war, personal losses among friends due to war and illness and his own health worries. The score ends with "Finis. R.I.P.". In the last 15 years of his life, he wrote nothing remotely comparable. His cello concerto is sometimes called Elgar's "swan song" in reference to the Greek myth of the swans' glorious last song.

"Nobilmente" is written above the five opening bars - a beginning that appears again and again throughout the concert as a "signet" (M. Schwalb) and "weaves through" the concert. This gesture also immediately comes to mind for Alexander Kahl from our cello section.

"It's a wonderful piece - very melancholy, with a deep, strong expression and very grateful to play. It has accompanied me for long stretches of my life, I passed both the entrance exam to the conservatory and the audition for the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie with it. Although I played it a lot myself, I always associate it with the legendary recording by Jacqueline du Pré, which I still think everyone has to measure themselves against. Incidentally, there is also a very moving film recording of it. The concerto has a very unusual structure. It begins with the slow movement, then comes the virtuoso movement, which is somewhat out of context in terms of character, another slow movement and the fast final movement, in which there is again a longer adagio passage. Alongside Schumann and Dvořák, it's now firmly in the repertoire as a romantic concerto, and I really appreciate it - especially in the fall (but of course also in the summer ☀️) (laughs)."


Our program booklet author Jens Schubbe also immediately also thinks of the great cellist du Pré when he hears Elgar's concerto, especially in the second movement - and makes a connection to the composer's best-known work in the last one:

"The Adagio unfolds an immensely soulful song born entirely from the spirit of the solo instrument: 'It is like the distillation of a tear,' the cellist and Elgar interpreter Jaqueline du Pré aptly commented. Finally, the finale reaches out symphonically. Its main theme seems like a shadow of the 'Pomp and Circumstance' glory (...)."


For this event, you will not receive tickets through our webshop. You will therefore be redirected to an external page of the organizer. If you have any not completed bookings on, they will be dissolved after 20 minutes.